One of the hardest thing with music is actually performing. Getting on stage and remembering all of the techniques you’ve practiced. I feel like whenever I perform I lost about 30% of things that I practiced. There are several things that you can do to combat this though.
First! Practice so much that it becomes habit. Remember though, perfect practice is the only way to have a perfect performance. Pay attention to everything you do and make sure you don’t let anything weird things creep in like strange hand gestures, weird tenseness in your face, or closing your eyes too much. And practice in front of a mirror, that way you can see if anything looks extra strange.
Second, all of your expression should come from your face. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use your body as well, but any gestures you make should be deliberate, clear, and big. If you don’t think a line deserves a big physical gesture than it doesn’t need any physical gesture. Your arms should just hang loose by your sides if you’re not using them. One warm-up exercise you can use to get use to this is sing on an “ah” up a fifth and then descend back down. While doing this lift your arm up and gesture out and then as you descend just let it fall naturally. You may feel tension and feel it want to descend slowly, but don’t let it! Just let it fall limp. Try this with other gestures like putting your hand over your heart, or on your neck, or wringing your hands together, but each time allow your arm to just drop naturally afterwards.
Third, practice your technique through your character. If you’re having trouble take big breaths then take a breath like your character might. Are you surprised? excited? sad? bored? It is always important to make sure you still maintain your posture though so don’t let your expression enter your body too much.
Fourth, your natural slate. Look at yourself in the mirror and completely relax your face into the most normal you can get it. This is your slate. This is the natural pallette you were given to express with. Maybe you have more of a frown in your face, this means you have to try harder to look happy, but less to look sad. Experiment with this and see what works best for you.
Now the most important, when you are outside of the practice room and on stage. When you are on stage and all your nerves are coursing through you, there honestly not a lot you can do to overcome that. You are going to feel nervous, and that’s okay. All you need to do is look down for a second, get in character, take a few deep breaths, I like to think of one or two important techniques that I need to sing well, then look up, and perform. It is that simple. It could feel like forever, but your audience wants the best you they can get, so give it to them!
An amazing book that covers some of these topics, and much more is Power Performance for Singers. Check it out and I’m sure you will learn a lot!